CAIRO – A sunny afternoon of flag-waving and chanting in Cairo’s Tahrir Square
degenerated into plumes of tear gas and rioting for the second anniversary of
the January 25 Revolution.
In Suez, the protests turned fatal, when eight
people were shot and killed, including at least one member of the security
forces. Another demonstrator killed in the city of Ismailia.
Egypt, 450 civilians and 55 security personnel were wounded, officials
The protests were fueled by widespread disgust against President
Mohamed Morsi and his ruling Muslim Brotherhood, which many Egyptians feel have
tipped the country farther into a desperate economic abyss.
battles erupted in Cairo, Alexandria, Suez and Port Said.
attacked at least two state-owned buildings as symbols of government were
targeted in Suez. Protesters also torched the Muslim Brotherhood’s website
offices in Cairo.
Friday’s protests were an attempt to reignite the
passionate demonstrations that toppled president Hosni Mubarak in 18 days in
“This is in solidarity with the people of Egypt, who staged one of
the most glorious revolutions in history and are determined to get it back,”
Saad Eddin Ibrahim, a prisoner under the Mubarak regime and Egypt’s leading
human rights activist, told The Jerusalem Post as he walked toward Tahrir. “The
crowd today speaks loud and clear to Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, putting
them on notice to be alert and vigilant that we won’t allow despotism to be
Throughout the afternoon, marches that began in every
corner of Cairo streamed toward Tahrir Square. As with many of the protests two
years ago, demonstrators came from all classes – upper-class women drinking
coffee while lounging on plastic chairs, hardened homeless people sleeping in
ratty blankets in the corners, children weaving through their parents legs and
vendors hawking commemorative January 25 T-shirts.
The protest took on
the air of a carnival for much of the afternoon, complete with cotton candy,
popcorn, and face paint in the colors of the Egyptian flag. But widespread
frustration was seething underneath, as many Egyptians feel they are much worse
off now than they were in 2011.
Still disgusted with the government,
protesters recycled the chants from the historic uprising two years ago. “The
people want to bring down the regime,” and “Leave! Leave! Leave!” they recited,
this time referring to Morsi instead of Mubarak. The same cries for “Bread,
Freedom and Social Justice!” echoed down the streets that thronged with
“I’m happy and sad at the same time,” said Sara, a 16- year-old
demonstrator making thousands of red cards to hand out to the masses to
symbolize Morsi getting thrown out by a referee. “We got rid of Mubarak and
brought Morsi, but he’s the same.”
As night fell, the diverse crowd was
replaced by a more hardened group, including the “Ultras,” soccer hooligans who
are known for instigating violence.
Police fired tear gas to disperse a
few dozen protesters trying to remove barbed wire and concrete barriers
protecting the presidential palace, witnesses said. A few masked men got as far
as the gates before they were beaten back.
“This show of force is to
convince the Muslim Brotherhood they can’t rule as if they are despots,” Nabil,
an activist with the Social Democrats, said earlier in the afternoon. He
stressed that he had no problem with the formation of the government, just the
action that it was taking. “The revolution didn’t achieve those goals to improve
life for poor Egyptians and improve the economy, but the biggest achievement of
the revolution was a sense of empowerment,” he said.
Brotherhood vowed not to get involved in Friday’s protests since much of the
rage was directed at its ineffectiveness in dealing with Egypt’s deep economic
Instead, it members spent the day planting trees and renovating
schools in an effort to win more support among poor voters ahead of April’s
Reuters contributed to this report.